How to Grow Bonsai Trees from Cuttings
Growing bonsai can be an expensive hobby, especially if you choose to buy a tree that has already been styled and potted up by a specialist dealer. But aside from the extra expense, when you buy a “finished” tree, you are missing out on all the fun!
There is in any case no such thing as a finished tree. At my bonsai club they say that the only finished tree is a dead one. All bonsai need regular pruning to keep them looking good, and in time a tree’s style may change drastically from what it looked like when you first bought it.
One of the cheaper methods of developing your own bonsai is to buy starter material from a garden centre. Or if you’ve got patience you may even choose to propagate your own.
I’ll admit I’m not a patient person and as a result I’ve acquired a LOT of trees. Many were bought cheaply at garden centres, while several were acquired off my club’s raffle table and cost me almost nothing. But when I prune my trees I hate to throw away anything that has the potential to make another tree. As a result a lot of my trees are grown from cuttings.
The tree I’m featuring in this Hub was started from a very small cutting which I planted in March 2007. I had been experimenting with bonsai for a while before that but really didn’t know what I was doing. When I started styling this tree I had just joined my club and was finally learning how to do things properly. But as an impatient beginner I must admit that I did too much too soon and probably slowed down my tree’s development.
This tree is a Ficus Natalensis – a member of the Ficus family which is indigenous to South Africa. What I like about these trees is that they grow quickly, so it is possible to develop a decent bonsai from a cutting in a few years.
27 December 2007
At this stage my little tree had spent its entire life indoors and was a sickly-looking specimen which needed wiring just to keep it upright. By this time I had been persuaded that my ficuses – so called indoor trees – would be better off living outside. Before its move I removed a couple of leaves from the top to promote branching.
16 January 2008
As a result of the changes I had made, there were already signs of improvement to my tree. New branches were starting to develop and, in only three weeks, the trunk was already starting to thicken. Despite signs of sunburn on the old leaves, they were no longer weak and droopy.
27 February 2008
By now there was significant branching and, as an inexperienced beginner, I decided it was time to remove some unwanted branches, not realising that leaving them on would help the trunk to thicken more quickly.
At the same time I rewired the trunk to position the remaining branches on the outside of the curves.
18 October 2008
The tree has been allowed to grow wild through the winter and is in serious need of a haircut. The free growth has helped the trunk to thicken substantially and it has begun to develop a woody appearance.
For anyone wanting to grow Ficus in a cold climate, I must mention that they are frost sensitive. Because of this I have to take this tree indoors at night during the colder months of the year. The climate where I live is still relatively mild, with overnight temperatures rarely dropping much below 0° Celsius and daytime temperatures usually rising into the teens. If your climate is really harsh, it may be necessary to keep your Ficus indoors throughout winter.
20 October 2008
With a lot of excess growth removed, the shape of the lower section is beginning to show.
10 December 2008
After another period of unrestricted growth, new branches are developing higher up on the tree.
22 March 2009
It is now approximately two years since this tree started life as a cutting with four leaves and no roots. It has been pruned and rewired a couple of times since December and is beginning to take shape.
The front of the tree has also been changed since the previous photo.
8 October 2010
In the last year and a half the only drastic change has been my decision to remove the lowest branch. It has recently been moved to a bonsai pot ready for the club show.
15 December 2012
Two years later the root base is looking a lot better and the foliage on the branches is no longer so sparse. The lower branches have recently been rewired to bring them closer to horizontal.
While this will never be my best tree, it will always hold a special place in my heart because of all it has taught me. Some of the branches I have pruned off it over the years have been developed into separate trees, some of which are now bigger and thicker than their parent and will in time make much better bonsai.
- My Bonsai Obsession
Life among my trees